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Qualitative Data Analysis – A Detailed Tutorial with Methods + Examples

Qualitative Data Analysis
John Caius
March 10, 2023

Qualitative Data Analysis can seem quite daunting. There are too much jargon and abstractions. In this article, we will cover the most common analysis methods. It will make your data analysis confident and skilful.

What is Qualitative Data?

Qualitative data is non-numerical and descriptive. It comprises subjective observations, opinions, and individual experiences. It involves the analysis of text, images, or other media. Qualitative data can be collected through interviews, focus groups, observations, and surveys.

What are the Uses of Qualitative Data?

  1. Qualitative data is helpful in social sciences and humanities
  2. It explores complex phenomena (attitudes, beliefs, social interactions)
  3. It identifies patterns, themes, and meanings from the data
  4. It gains insights from participant’s experiences and perspectives

Difference Between Qualitative Data and Quantitative Data With Examples;

  Qualitative Data Quantitative Data
Definition The data is non-numerical and descriptive The data is numerical and measurable
Analysis Interpretation


Statistical Methods like ANOVA
Examples Interview transcripts

Open-ended survey responses


Focus group discussions



Text documents


Height and weight measurements


Test scores

Number of customers

Sales revenue


Time is taken to complete a task


What is Qualitative Data Analysis?

Qualitative Data Analysis is the systematic organisation and interpretation of non-numerical data. This analysis helps in the understanding of a phenomenon or research question. It is helpful to uncover patterns, themes, and meanings.

What are the Steps Involved in Qualitative Data Analysis?

The process of Qualitative Data Analysis involves several steps:

  1. Data provision: This involves transcribing the Qualitative data into an easy format and organising it.
  2. Data adjustment: Researchers immerse to gain an understanding of the content. It identifies patterns and themes.
  3. Data coding: This step identifies and labels Qualitative data. This represents a particular concept, idea, or theme. This creates a set of codes to represent different categories or themes.
  4. Theme development: Researchers make groups and code into larger themes. Themes represent patterns and trends in the data.
  5. Interpretation: Researchers conclude understanding of the data. They explore the relationships between themes and the research question.
  6. Verification: Researchers test the validity of their interpretations. They seek feedback from others. This step also involves a comparison of findings with existing research.

What are the Qualitative Data Analysis Methods? Explain with example

Qualitative Data Analysis methods are used to analyse non-numeric data. It includes words, images, and sounds. These methods are helpful in sociology, psychology, and anthropology.

Here are five common Qualitative Data Analysis methods:

  1. Qualitative content analysis: This method analyses the text content. The text is in transcripts of interviews or social media posts. The main purpose is to identify patterns and themes. For example, a researcher analyses social media posts to identify the voter’s issues.
  2. Grounded theory: This method develops a theory from interviews or observational data. The researcher allows the data for theory development. For example, a researcher wants to develop a “how a teacher incorporates technology into their teaching” theory.
  3. Narrative analysis: This method analyses the stories and shares people’s experiences. The researcher looks for themes and patterns in the stories. It gains insight into people’s experiences and beliefs. For example, a researcher wants to identify effective strategies against cancer.
  4. Discourse analysis: This method analyses language strategy. This analysis helps construct meaning and shape the social world. The researcher identifies underlying assumptions, beliefs, and values. For example, a researcher analyses a politician’s speech to understand political ideologies.
  5. Ethnography: This method involves the observational study methods of culture or community. The researcher immerses in understanding beliefs, practices, and values. For example, a researcher wants to study adaptation to an economic condition in a rural community.

Each Qualitative Data Analysis method has its strengths and weaknesses.

The choice of method depends on the research question and the nature of the data.

How to Choose the Best Qualitative Data Analysis Method?

The best Qualitative Data Analysis method requires careful consideration. You should be able to identify the research question, nature, and the specific goals of the study.

  1. Identify the research question: The first step is to define the research question. This will identify the data to collect and the appropriate analysis method.
  2. Consider the nature of the data: Qualitative data can take many forms, such as text, images, audio, or video. Consider the type of data to collect. Evaluate the best method to analyse it. For example, content analysis or grounded theory is appropriate if you have interview data.
  3. Consider the available resources: Some qualitative data analysis requires special software and training. Consider all available resources and choose the appropriate method.
  4. Seek advice:  If you are unsure which is the best analysis method for your data, seek advice from a professional academic service. This service will guide you through the analysis process.
  5. Determine the study goals: Consider what you want to achieve through the study.
  • Do you want to identify patterns or themes in the data?
  • Do you want a theory or model to explain a phenomenon?
  • Do you want to understand a particular experience for the participant?

The answers to these questions will help you select an appropriate analysis method.

Example of Qualitative Data and the best method to choose:


To understand the experience of college students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The researcher conducts interviews with ten students. He transcribes the interviews into text data.

What do you think is the best data analysis method in this condition?

Narrative or Content Analysis or Both?

If your answer is both. Then, yes, you are Right

Why? Let’s find out

Narrative analysis analyses the stories of people about their experiences.

Why Narrative Analysis?

This method is appropriate as the researcher wants to understand the college student’s experience. He analyses the student’s stories and identifies common themes and experience patterns. The experiences are isolation feelings and online learning challenges.

Why Content Analysis?

Content Analysis can also use in this example.

It involves analysis of the text content and identifies patterns and themes. The researcher analyses the transcripts of the interviews. The researcher could list the most common topics of discussion among students. These topics are about health and safety, changes in their social lives, or academic challenges.

The Best Analysis:

The choice between Narrative and Content Analysis depends on the research question and the study’s goals.

  • If the goal is to understand personal experiences, Narrative Analysis may be the best choice.
  • Content Analysis may be more appropriate if the goal is to identify common discussion topics.


Qualitative Data Analysis methods provide systematic tools to analyse non-numerical data. The best method for the research question requires careful consideration. A key aspect of Qualitative Data Analysis is maintaining rigour and transparency throughout the analysis process. This includes detailed notes and documentation processes. Ensure to ground all findings in the data. Analysis methods provide valuable tools to explore complex phenomena and generate insights.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1) What is Qualitative Data Analysis?

Qualitative Data Analysis involves a systematic approach to interpreting and making sense of data.

2) What are some common Qualitative Data Analysis methods?

It includes content analysis, grounded theory, narrative analysis, discourse analysis, and ethnography.

3) How do I choose the best Qualitative Data Analysis method for my research?

Choosing the best analysis method for qualitative data requires careful consideration. Consider the available resources and seek advice if necessary.

4) How do I maintain rigour and transparency in Qualitative Data Analysis?

It involves notes and documents in detail. Researchers should have transparent assumptions and biases. They must engage in reflexivity and self-critique.

5) What are the limitations of Qualitative Data Analysis?

Qualitative Data Analysis is subjective and interpretive. All the findings are general to other contexts or populations. It can also be time-consuming and resource-intensive. It requires a high level of skill and expertise to carry out.

About Author

Isobel Taylor is an experienced Content Specialist from Birmingham. She has completed her Marketing (BS Honors) from the University of Kent. Isobel lives in the UK and works for a Cheap Essay Writing education firm. She also has expertise in Google Ads and runs marketing campaigns for local and international retail chains. She loves to travel and go on hiking trips in her free time.

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